June 17, 2015
Nobody ever believes in love
Nobody ever believes in love. I certainly didn’t. Ten years ago right now, the day before my wedding, when my husband-to-be and his mum were running errands in their town, they ended up waiting for ages at the bank. I was at home waiting for them to come back, and when they didn’t, I started to feel sick to my stomach. It was terrible. I was convinced that halfway there they’d had a heart-to-heart, and Stuart had confessed he didn’t want to go through it all, and now they were driving around in circles trying to come up with the kindest way to let me down. I was convinced of this not because I lacked faith in Stuart or in our relationship, but because it just seemed too easy, too simple, too lucky, that our wedding, our marriage would transpire. Because there were no flies in the ointment (except that we were both of us unemployable, and neither descended from moneyed stock, sadly).
“Marry a good man,” answered Anne Enright in this weekend’s Globe and Mail Books to the question, “What the best advice you’ve ever received?” And I did. Ten years on, it only becomes more clear.
I still don’t believe it totally. Perhaps the problem is that I’ve spent my life reading fiction. It occurred to me as I contemplated writing this post that it would be very novel-like (i.e. the way that life goes) if three days from now by husband told me he didn’t love me anymore and was leaving me for somebody whose forehead wasn’t perma-wrinkled and rashy, maybe some whose abs were less rippled than mine (by which I mean rippling in the breeze, of course). Years ago, I read a line from an article about divorce—”‘Barring some catastrophe,’ Bonnie says, placing a hand on her husband’s khaki-clad knee. ‘We are going to have a successful lifelong marriage.'”—and it turned out I knew of Bonnie, though by the time I came across the article, she was already divorced. I don’t know if there was any catastrophe. But still. I am so fascinated by declarations of undying love and gratitude in the acknowledgements pages of backlist books by authors whom I know to be no longer attached. “To Pablo, my everything. It begins and ends with you.”
So I don’t know. But here is what I do know: ten years ago I married a good man, and I love him more and more all the time. And more than that, I like him. He is my choicest companion for any endeavour, from the Valentines we spent in the hospital ER while our three-year-old had an enema to dreamy vacations far across the sea. He is kind and patient and fun, smart and interesting. Everything good that I have ever made has been co-conspired by him. He is supportive, hilarious, imaginative, good, hard-working, generous, and adorable. I am absolutely nuts for him, and really, I could adjectivise him all day. And he loves me back. He doesn’t just say it, but he shows it. Simple, easy, lucky. Can you see why I’m not sure?
I worry about writing down these things in case I come across as more irritatingly smug than I usually do, if such a thing is possible. But in not writing it down, a different kind of narrative takes hold. The kind that presumes that it is not possible to be married to someone for ten years and to love them more and more all the time. That marriage is a sham, it doesn’t work, that everyone is cheating, or longing to. Which is so far from my experience, in which my marriage is the bedrock of my entire life. Solid ground, I think. The surest thing I know.
Or do I? I think so. But it’s a kind of faith, marriage, believing in somebody else, believing in oneself even. That’s all it is, but then it’s everything. It’s all we’ve got, but then there’s all we’ve got—with a focus on the muchness. Ten years ago, we had no idea. We were two weeks away from moving to Canada, making a start here, I was embarking on graduate school, Stuart applying for permanent residency. The year we got married and the year after that, we lived on groceries from No Frills, $50 a week, mostly chickpeas because we couldn’t afford meat, and things made from soup mixes because we didn’t know how to cook. But we learned. It was such a long time ago.
But things started to happen, the way they do when you start leaving your twenties behind. We figured out what we wanted to do and how to do it. We decided what our priorities were going be. It wasn’t all uphill—there were job losses, plenty of failure and disappointment, stupidity, illness, and mistakes. But all these things are better weathered together, and we’re better for them. Better for having kids too, our amazing daughters who are even harder to believe in than love is, because how can the world really be capable of such miracles as that? Life begetting life, first principles, but I don’t get it at all. All this extraordinary amazement at the most ordinary things, and when I look back on the last decade it overwhelms me. It makes me think there is no such thing as ordinary after all.
You never know what’s around the corner, though I think that’s a blessing far more than a curse. “To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next,” writes Rebecca Solnit in her essay, “Woolf’s Darkness,” which is also an epigraph of my novel. (The other epigraph is from Harriet the Spy.) And while I could never have forecasted the past ten years in my wildest dreams, I think I would have hoped for them, if I’d dared to. For our incredible fortune, by which I mean Stuart and me, and that we found each other at all in a world so big and swarming with other people.